While the gaming industry has a lot of parents concerned about violence and video game addiction, some gaming software is aimed at helping children and adults with ADD and ADHD.
The general idea is that ADHD educational software increases focus and concentration. Since children are already fascinated by video games, it seems logical that children with ADD/ADHD can be taught to pay more attention through screens and joysticks.
Some ADHD educational software goes even further by attaching sensors to the computer user’s head. These sensors—which are available for home computers—allow the user to control action on the screen with brainwaves. Focusing on the game means the player will do well; becoming distracted causes the player to lose ground.
This technology can be traced to NASA and its efforts to keep pilots alert during long flights. Through brainwave information, NASA tracked the engagement of its pilots on a flight simulator. As the pilot’s attention lagged, he or she would be required to interact. Apparently, there is a resemblance between the brainwaves of these pilots and children with ADD: brainwaves slow down as concentration decreases.
Some ADHD educational software is based on NASA’s findings. Over time, educators discovered that when a child receives attention therapy through a video game, the child enjoys the process much more than in a traditional setting. Therefore, children who are enthusiastic about their attention therapy are motivated to participate and succeed.
No one suggests that children with ADD or ADHD be plopped in front of a video game and forgotten. ADHD educational software is simply meant to be another tool to exercise a child’s attention span. By increasing children’s attention spans through video game therapy, it is theorized that they can transfer their stronger attention span to other tasks such as schoolwork or chores.
Some providers of ADHD educational software are:
BrainTrain (www.braintrain.com): BrainTrain’s attention and memory-training software has been in use since 1985 for adults and children with ADD/ADHD. Their ADHD educational software line includes Captain’s Log, SoundSmart, and SmartDriver. These programs address attention, reasoning, memory, listening skills, impulse control, and following directions.
S.M.A.R.T. BrainGames (www.smartbraingames.com): S.M.A.R.T. BrainGames combine regular, fun video games with analysis of brainwaves. Sensors are placed on the surface of the head to measure brainwave activity. If the player maintains the desired brain state, the video game plays seamlessly. If not, the speed and control of the game decrease.
BrainBuilder 3.0 (www.toolsforwellness.com): BrainBuilder is computer software that assesses and builds “sequential processing,” or the ability to take in and organize what we see and hear. The BrainBuilder program has seven activities: three focus on what we hear, three focus on what we see, and one focuses on attention and processing speed. The underlying principle of BrainBuilder is to exercise the brain for clearer thinking, quicker processing, less confusion, and better communication.
Play Attention (www.playattention.com): Play Attention comes with a helmet that reads the brain signals of focus and attention. The brainwaves picked up by the helmet control Play Attention’s computer games. The user’s mind basically becomes the mouse or joystick, and the games teach how to improve focus, ignore distractions, develop memory, and become more organized.
Cogmed (www.cogmed.com): Cogmed Working Memory Training is a software-based program designed for children with ADD and ADHD. Cogmed claims that 80 percent of its participants have experienced significant improvement in their concentration and problem-solving skills. The five-week Cogmed program is coach-supported and conducted at home with telephone assistance.
Grey Olltwit Software (www.greyolltwit.com): Grey Olltwit (AKA Simon Hensby) began making software in 1996 for his son, who was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 12. Today his ADHD educational software and games are available through his Web site. Hensby, who is based in England, says his programs are used by more than 8 million people in homes, schools, colleges, and other organizations around the world. His educational programs cover math, English, science, geography, music, and more.